A new group is taking over the running of the historic Surf Ballroom in Clear Lake. The North Iowa Cultural Center and Museum is signing a lease with the Dean Snyder family, which owns the ballroom. Jeff Nicholas, a member of the new group’s board of directors, says the building has a fabled history of music and culture, but its financial side hasn’t been as great.
Nicholas says, "Time and time again, persons in our community have come to the aid of the Surf." The ballroom is perhaps best known as the last place where rock-and-rollers Buddy Holly, J.P. "The Big Bopper" Richardson and Ritchie Valens played before being killed in a plane crash in February of 1959. Nicholas says the ballroom is still used for concerts and plays an important part of north-central Iowa’s culture, but it also brings a significant economic impact.
He says it contributes well over four-million dollars to the area’s economy every year. Nicholas says he hopes the new group will be able to increase the benefits of the ballroom’s facilities to north-central Iowa, with plans for creating a museum within the historic building’s walls.
He says the museum would be an important stop for all visitors to Clear Lake to showcase all of the posters, pictures and memorabilia. An executive director for the North Iowa Cultural Center will eventually be hired and oversee the business, with a nine-to-11 member board being established to run the organization. Former business manager Kevin Schoneman decided not to renew his lease with the ballroom when it expired on December 31st.
The original Surf Ballroom was built in 1933 and was destroyed by fire in 1947. The ballroom was rebuilt in 1948 across the street from the original location.